Oman Trade Agreement and Protectionism

Today the Senate
for the second time the U.S.-Oman Free Trade Agreement, another in
the now lengthy list of
. The Oman treaty also marks further outreach through
trade with Arabic countries that are considered friendly to the U.S. Earlier FTAs
were completed with Bahrain, Morocco, and Jordan. Increased trade and investment between the countries could result — and that would be good.

But already the protectionist veil of “national security”
interests was being spread by Sen. Byron Dorgan, who said in the floor debate that
the agreement with Oman could
open the doors
to that country taking over U.S. ports.—or even the United
Arab Emirates could gain port control through Oman.

Remember the brouhaha about “national security” that arose
when a company in Dubai, DP World Ports, planned to manage
six U.S. ports
? DP World Ports, controlled
by the government of the United Arab Emirates — another country with which the
U.S. was negotiating a trade agreement — dropped those plans amid the
controversy. And the UAE dropped plans
for a speedy free trade agreement with the U.S. Tit for tat.

It’s an added irony that Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is
bound for China to discuss a host of contentious issues. He expressed worry
about signs of protectionism in that country, which recently set new
on foreign investors. Maybe China is just following the U.S. protectionist lead.